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How to Console Your Child Who Has Lost a Classmate

Updated on September 21, 2016

I am often reminded how blessed I am with the children I have. Each morning I wake up to them laughing and joking, or arguing and debating a problem. We are a tight knit family sharing everything, so most of the time I don't have to worry about intervening, unless they need a referee. I just sit back and watch them develop into the adults they are becoming. On this particular morning I was working on a hub for HubPages when my daughter came to me needing to talk. I figured it to be the typical topic of a teen's “I want or may I”, but after a closer look at the expression on her face; this was going to be a more serious topic. So, I saved my work, grabbed some coffee, and sat down to what drama she had this week. It was not what I was expecting.

She announced that the brother of a classmate in her class had just passed away. He was sixteen and had cancer. Living in a small town like we do, this would have an impact on the community.

Death is like a ripple in a pond and some waves are more noticeable then others. I knew that many in the community were holding onto the hope that this child would beat his battle with cancer. It came as a shock that his death happened so soon.

I sat here stunned. I was one of them that thought he may be able to beat it. My daughter on the other hand knew that he may not. My son had mixed feelings about it. We had talked about this classmate once before, but at the time I didn't realize how far his cancer had progressed. (It had started in his shoulder, moved to his lungs, then his heart in a matter of a few months.)

I sat there looking at my daughter thinking of what to say. How does one handle talking about the death of a classmate? This death was the third one my daughter was dealing with in under four years.

I began by analyzing her feelings about it, since each death has effected her differently. I asked a few questions, to get her to open up about how she was coping. I am no expert at this, but over the years from my sibling's loss of classmates, to my children's loss of classmates, I felt that communication was the key. If they wanted to talk, I would let them talk, while trying to hold back from giving too much advice unless they wanted it. Most of the time they just wanted to vent their feelings. If they didn't want to talk about it, I would wait, but remind them that I was available.

I found out through my own experiences with death and helping my children to accept it, that are many do's and don'ts when handling the death of someone.

Here are some of the lessons I learned.


Skirt the issue or using words to avoid using the word death. This can often lead to doing more harm then helping.

When a young child has lost a sibling, never tell them that the sibling they lost is sleeping. It may cause an anxiety in the child wanting to go to sleep to be with their sibling or afraid to sleep because it may happen to them.

Resist telling them that the person they lost is on vacation or gone. It may lead to a separation anxiety.

Never tell the child their loved one is lost. The child will confuse it with losing keys, homework, or an animal.


Use the words death, dead, dying, or died. It sounds horrible, but I had my children look up the words in a dictionary when my grandmother they were close to had died. (My son was five and my daughter was four at the time.) It helped to give them a better understanding that this is a cycle of life.

Talk to them about how they feel. If you don't have the answers to some of their questions, be honest and say you don't know.

Let them know that it is ok to be angry, frighten, confused, upset and don't like that this has happened. Mainly it is to get them to express their feelings instead of bottling them up. If they aren't talking to you, they are talking to someone else and may be come more upset by the situation.

How I tried to help while at a loss myself.

When my daughter experienced her first death of a classmate, she was devastated. He was good-looking, popular, and every girl from the age of eight to eighty loved him. He had a charming personality and gorgeous smile. His death was such an unexpected shock to the community that many kids turned to drugs and alcohol to deal with it. My daughter refused to be consoled by anyone but her brother. My daughter cried for a week and didn't want to eat. She didn't think it was fair that a “good guy” like him would be striped of life and happiness. She rejected God and anyone that tried to talk to her about him. Her brother grieved in his own way, but didn't go to the funeral with her because he didn't want to remember his friend in the coffin. He wanted to remember him laughing and goofing off.

The death of her second classmate was just as sudden and unexpected. I was surprised and alarmed by the venom and hatred she had displayed. He was a handsome boy that many girls liked, but he was a bully. He had more enemies than friends. I was caught off guard by some of the remarks I had heard at his funeral. Majority of the students seen his death as a relief. A burden that was lifted from their shoulders. I sat my children down to tell me what they thought. Both didn't really like him, but didn't think it was right that other students were glad he was dead. They felt sorry for the family. The venom and hatred my daughter had displayed was leftovers from still coming to terms with the previous death. She also thought that the events that lead to the classmate's accident were stupid on his part.

This third death has been handled in a different manner. Where I expected either a puddle of tears or an angry outburst, I was confronted with a calm but sorrowful attitude. She knew he was sick and may not make it. He was someone that was a nice kid, but never popular. He didn't have many friends till the students found out he was sick. It saddened her to see people treat him that way. She didn't have much to say this time. Just that at least he wasn't suffering, but that their friend, Booger, was taking it hard. This time she was the one to console a friend in need. I was the one at a loss for words.

There is not an easy way to consol your child when they have experienced a loss like this. Mainly it is just taking the time to be there for them when they need a shoulder to cry on, or someone to vent their anger to.

Don't feel ashamed to check up on your child if they start to show signs that are out of character. They may be finding ways to deal with their sorrow and the stress from peer pressure. Some may even think that turning to drugs or alcohol will help them to ease their greif or guilt.

I was a fortunate parent when it came to my children experiencing such losses because I have always felt that honesty and communication were important. Even in those moments when my husband and I were lost for words, our children understood that we would help them any way we could.

Please feel free to leave a comment...Thanks!

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    • tlpoague profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from USA

      Thanks Nitin for stopping by. Sorry for the delay in getting back to you. It has been a busy year for me. I am sorry to hear about your loss. My children just lost another classmate this year to a bone cancer. It is difficult to adjust to someone that is close. I am glad this hub touched you. Thanks,

      Thanks Joe for stopping by. No, I didn't hear of it, but will look it up. I hope they find the person that did it soon so you and others can find closer.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Lost a friend, 1981 to murder. He was beaten unconscious, laid on RR Tracks for a train to cut him in half. Perhaps you heard of it, the case is still open. Ventura, CA. David Elwell.

    • Nitin Pillai profile image

      Nitin Pillai 

      5 years ago from Mumbai, Maharastra, India

      I miss my dear high school friend whom I lost this year. Still can't believe he has left us, like some voice in me is saying he is still out there, ready to play and talk to me. Great hub tlpoague.

    • tlpoague profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from USA

      Thanks Happy, Sorry it has taken me so long to respond again. This has been a trying week, but everyone is handling it in good spirits. I will let her know that you left her some fan mail. I was happy to see my niece join the HP family too. I have always thought the best form of therapy was praying and writing. It helps to have wonderful and supportive people here on HubPages. Thanks again! I hope you have had a wonderful Christmas!

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      7 years ago from South Carolina

      I just finished reading your daughter's hub and was deeply touched by what she wrote and the beautiful and gifted manner in which she wrote it. I left her fan mail and have become a follower.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      7 years ago from South Carolina

      I am just now seeing this answer to my original comment.

      My heart goes out to you, your daughter, your sister and her extended family and I shall say a prayer for all of you today. So much loss in such a short time, is so hard to process.

      I shall read your daughter's hub. It is good she has been able to talk with you and write about her previous experiences with grief and death. As you say, only time will tell if she will use her experiences to an even greater extent to help others, but for now your support and encouragement is the thing that will help her through the current losses.

      I admire your use of faith to help you through tough times. Many do turn away from their faith and God at a time like this (I did so once when I was a teenager suffering from the cancer death of my beloved) but of course, that only compounds the pain and grief. Still, the turning to God has to come from within but your modeling it is the healthiest thing for your daughter.

    • tlpoague profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from USA

      Thanks Happy, I started three times to answer you yesterday, but was interupted each time. Tragity must follow my daughter. She just lost two more friends this week to car wreaks due to a snow storm. My sister informed me that her brother-in-law died this week too. He was my classmate. Although these deaths haven't affect me like the others, I still feel the pain through my daughter and my sister. In moments like those, I lift the families up to pray and cling tightly to my faith, because it is too easy to turn away from one's faith during difficult times. I watched it with my children.

      To help herself close one door of death, my daughter finally wrote a hub about her side of the story. She writes under the name bmxchick. I am proud of the strides she has taken to not self distruct more than she did and could have. I keep enouraging her to the point of nagging to use her talents to share with others how she has handled life challenges. Only time will tell if she does.

      Thanks for taking the time to stop and leaving a comment.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 

      7 years ago from South Carolina

      Very compassionate hub with some gritty and realistic examples of the impact the death of a young person has on family, friends and young sweethearts. The suggestions you gave in this hub to those parents who are trying to help their children through this painful situation was excellent. It is so important to realize that everyone handles grief in their own way, no matter what their age is and that even children are greatly affected by death regardless of whether they can easily talk about it or ask questions.

      This is an important and helpful hub. Thanks for posting it.

    • tlpoague profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from USA

      Thanks Kathryn,

      My heart goes out to the children that experience losses like this.

    • kathryn1000 profile image


      7 years ago from London

      I think that is very good advice and very well written too.

    • tlpoague profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from USA

      Thanks Astra,

      It is amazing to see how intuitive a child can be to their surroundings. Mine are surprising me every day. It is a challenge raising a child to the best of one's ability. There are hidden fears some may face about screwing a child up by sharing too much or not enough. My husband and I spent hours talking about how to raise a child. We tried to learn from our parents mistakes and took it one day at a time. Our children are becoming adults now and are seeing what we have taught them over the years shining through. I have always told my children, communication is the key; I can't stop you from doing what you are determined to do, but I can prepare you for the realities of what will happen if you make the wrong choice. I am proud of how they handle situations now. The death of my daughter's classmates have left a mark on her, but as she grows older, she has found ways to help others deal with these issues. I have been caught by surprise by my kids telling me they were glad their dad and I took the time to talk to them about life. They have seen the difference in others around them.

      Thanks again for reading and commenting on my hub.

    • Astra Nomik profile image

      Cathy Nerujen 

      7 years ago from Edge of Reality and Known Space

      Some kids can amaze us and just have an innate ability to sense things and understand. But if we equip kids to face things and not run away from problems, we end up giving them perhaps some of our hang ups. My father was rubbish at explaining facts of life to me, and he took a huff when my mother upstaged him by doing all the legwork.

      There is no easy way to raise kids. Some of it will be down to us (I am not a parent) and other times down to others...

    • tlpoague profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from USA

      Thanks is hard to watch one's child go thru the pain of loosing a classmate. Thanks again!

    • ammara aseer profile image

      ammara aseer 

      7 years ago

      Its so sad but important to.

      thank for sharing. it will be definatily useful for me.. keeb writing....

      take care

    • tlpoague profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from USA

      Thank you Eiddwen,

      I was talking to one of my sisters and she reminded me of two young guys that died while she was in school. One was in her class and had committed suicide, the other was in my brother's class and had died in a car accident wanting to be home before his mother. Unfortunately it was his mother that found him. My family and I taught our children about death at a very young age. It seem to make it easier to answer questions later on.

      Thanks again!

    • Eiddwen profile image


      7 years ago from Wales

      Hi tipoague,

      Thanks for sharing this sad but very important hub.

      A great deal of work must have gone into this one and it definitly shows.

      Thanks for sharing.

      Take care


    • tlpoague profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from USA

      Thanks Susan,

      I think my kids were about two and three when I began to talk to them about death. My father-in-law had heart problems, so I started to prepare them for his death. When he did die, I was amazed at how they were the ones trying to console their grandmother.

      This funeral is one of many where the town as a whole has come together to help each other. He died just before he could attend his benefit dinner the town put together for him. My heart goes out to his family.

      Thanks again for your comment.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Great Hub! Sad too though. When my son was in grade 7 or 8 he lost his best friend to a brain tumor. I had hoped that this young boy would beat the odds but unfortunately did not. My heart goes out to anyone that loses a child. I attended the funeral with my son and we talked before and after he passed away about dieing and how he was feeling. I agree with everything you have said here. I am sure many people will.


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